How to Tweet

I recently encouraged a family member to join Twitter; she gave it a try but couldn’t really figure out why I’d been so enthusiastic about it. That’s a feeling I remember having when I first joined Twitter something over a year ago – it took me a while to get used to a new way of communicating. So I started to tell her about some of the ways I’d eventually started using Twitter that resulted in me finding it such a useful tool.

For what they’re worth, here they are – if you’ve never tried Twitter or are new to it, I hope you’ll find them interesting.

0. Why tweet?

Like any good techie, I’m starting at 0, not 1 … and with something important: why Tweet? There must be a good reason, or so many of us wouldn’t be doing it so much. I think of Twitter as a global “over the partition” conversation. Years ago I worked in an office with partitions with a group of people who did roughly the same thing I did. Several times a day, someone would find something interesting on the web, fancy a coffee or just plain lose their rag with a malfunctioning piece of code … and say something about it. There’d be a brief conversation – sometimes informative, sometimes not – and then we’d all go back to what we were doing.

Nowadays? I can’t remember the last week I was in the same office two days in a row – except my home office of course. Often I’m in different cities or even countries on consecutive days. I work – and socialise – with an identifiable network of people, but they’re busy doing their own thing wherever they happen to be.

So I tweet them. Because by tweeting them I can reach them wherever they are; because they can decide whether to pay attention or not; and because there’s the potential for people I don’t know to overhear the conversation. I’ll explain what I mean by “overhearing” in points 2 and 3 further on.

So that’s the why of it, for me anyway, now here’s the how …

1. Say what you do

Twitter is blogging on a small scale – so fundamentally, just like blogging, it’s about letting people know what you’re doing – or what you’re reading, or what you’re thinking. So get started – whenever you pause for thought in your day, consider tweeting what’s on your mind. Someone, somewhere, might find it interesting.

2. Follow Twitterers in your network

You have to start somewhere, so start with who you know. Use the registration tools to find your e-mail contacts, or use the “Find People” search to look for people by name. More than likely, you were introduced to Twitter by a colleague, friend or contact so look them up and look at the people they follow. You’re likely to find people you know, or people who might be interesting to you.

3. Search

Most tweets on Twitter are public, so in theory you can listen to whatever anyone is saying … so how do you find the people you don’t know that are saying interesting things? One way is to use Twitter’s search facility to search for key words or phrases that describe what you’re interested in – for example, “Social Media”, “Environment”, “USA”, “Kylie”. That’s one way to see who’s tweeting about the things you’re interested in. Several companies are taking this approach, and will respond to a tweet containing their name either directly or by following you – they’re doing this because they’re exploring how they can use Twitter to interact with their customers and employees, and with the marketplace at large.

4. Use connection services

To be honest, Twitter search is a fairly blunt tool for making connections. More interesting are services such as “Mr. Tweet” (http://mrtweet.net) that analyse your Twitter connections and activity, and suggest people to follow. Alternatively, look at the replies your followers send to people you don’t know (i.e. messages containing @someones_name) and their re-tweets (i.e. a message they send starting RT @someones_name that indicates they’re forwarding a tweet from someone else). They’ll give you another link to people with whom you might share a common interest. Go look at their profiles and their tweets and perhaps start following them.

This should just about get you started. There’s a lot more advice out there, particularly if your interest in Twitter is concerned with it’s potential as a tool for personal and corporate promotion. I’ll leave that to others. But if you just want a few tips to get started, I hope this has been some help.

Happy tweeting,

Rick

 

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About Rick Robinson
I’m the Director of Technology for Amey, one of the UK's largest engineering and infrastructure services companies, and part of the Ferrovial Group. Previously, I was IBM UK's Executive Architect for Smarter Cities. You can connect with me on Linked-In and as @dr_rick on Twitter. The views expressed here are my own.

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